Middle Georgia State University is expanding its fixed-wing flight and airport management instruction by offering it at Macon Downtown Airport. The university also will manage the fixed-base operation and fuel farm at the airport in east Bibb County.
The announcement was made Thursday morning by MGSU officials and the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority. The authority will lease to the school about 5,100 square feet of classroom and office space and about 6,100 square feet of hangar space.
“We hope there will be aviators and airplanes buzzing over this airport in short time,” said MGSU President Christopher Blake. The establishment of the FBO at the airport “is the first step in a broader plan for addressing the aviation needs in this state. … This is really an opportunity for this airport to fly in the next few years.”
MGSU will offer courses in flight training, ground school and fixed-base operations in newly renovated facilities at the airport.
The university plans to establish other satellite aviation academic programs through a statewide expansion. The school will continue its programs in Eastman, which will serve as the hub for the proposed satellite operations.
By offering the classes in Macon, MGSU expects to attract students from Middle Georgia and Atlanta areas who are looking for flight instruction. The school offers the only public higher education aviation program in the state.
The authority will lease the space to MGSU for a year at a time, with seven possible renewals, said Nancy Stroud, executive vice president of finance and operations at Middle Georgia State.
The university’s rent will be $500 a month the first year, $1,000 a month the second year and $2,000 a month each year thereafter along with a fuel flowage fee, according to a news release. Middle Georgia State’s costs will be offset by student education fees and general funds, plus funds from fuel sales.
The school will begin accepting qualified students right away, with classes beginning in January. Initially, aircrafts based in Eastman will be used for the training in Macon.
Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert said many people have recognized how significant the airport could be to the county as well as the region.
“Nobody has been more visionary and more persistent in that regard than former mayor Lee Robinson,” Reichert said, adding that Robinson brought him to the airport a couple of years ago, saying that the airport “‘could be so great. … It has fallen into disrepair and we don’t have the services we need.'”
Robinson attended the event Thursday and was recognized for his dedication to the airports.
The city-county government announced last fall it planned to re-establish a fixed-base operator at the airport to handle necessary functions, such as selling fuel. In April, the authority was asked to oversee the refurbishing of the fuel farm at the airport, and in June the city-county agreed that the authority would lease a portion of the airport in order to attract business.
“We are so fortunate to have two airports,” said Doug Faour, airport manager for Macon-Bibb. “Each airport serves a unique aviation segment.”
The Middle Georgia Regional Airport offers commercial air service while the Macon Downtown Airport serves general aviation flights, which includes corporate business jets.
“The aviation industry is important to Macon-Bibb County,” Faour said. “It is directly associated with the success of our community.”